Tag Archives: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago “C Bench”

At the University of Chicago, there is a concrete bench in the form of a C in front of the administration building.  According to my informant, who attended the University of Chicago in the 1940’s and early 1950’s, you were not to sit on the C bench “unless you were a letterman or had been kissed by a letterman.”  Essentially only athletes and the girlfriends of athletes could use the bench.  My informant says that if someone violated this rule, however, no one really did anything, it’s was just a funny rule.

After some research, it seems that there are two different traditions surrounding the C Bench from different eras.  In the early 1900’s, the C Bench was off-limits for Freshman, and any freshman who sat on it would most definitely be harassed by older students.  Back then, the C Bench was a big social center of campus and lots of people hung out there.  In later years, that tradition appears to have faded and been replaced by reserving the C Bench for athletes and their girlfriends.   At this point in time, however, the C Bench seems to have dwindled as a hot spot for social activity and the  tradition had lost almost all meaning, especially with the school’s shift from athletic focus to academic focus.


Fraternity Initiation – Pledge Plays

My informant attended the University of Chicago during the 1940’s and early 1950’s, and was a member of the Zeta Beta Tau, or ZBT, fraternity.  While fraternity life was different than it was at other universities and certainly is different now, they had one initiation ritual in particular that my informant remembers.  After they had become fully admitted into the fraternity, the pledges had to put on a play where they got to parody the older members of the fraternity.  Each older member had to be represented at least once during this play.  Also instead of hazing rituals, the pledges had to do tasks around the house like cleaning and other chores.

Personally, I find it amazing that the USC Trojan Marching Band, or at least the alto saxophone section of the TMB, has this very same ritual.  At the end of the Weekender trip, which is the away game against either Cal or Standford depending on the year, the freshman are tasked with putting on sketches about the older members of the band.  Every older member must be represented at some point, which often means that some freshman must pull double duty and do two skits.  The fact that a tradition so similar is still being practiced 60 years later tells me that this tradition is at least somewhat universal.